I may have a smartphone and a blog but I don’t text, Nintendo, Twitter or e-read. And the only “Face” I book is when I “show face” at a boring, obligatory function before finding the exit. I do, however, efile, efax, listserv, email, VOIP, VPN, cloud and surf.
Still, I appreciate the look and feel of shelved books and the guilt-inducing regret evoked by a nightstand’s stack of unread books. Worse yet I remain sentimental about anachronistic note cards, letters and the tactile quaintness of snail mail.
But for those born in the early 1990’s, whose generational designation is the last letter of the alphabet, such archaisms are unknown or unwanted. As far as the digital future is concerned, the so-called Generation Z is first in line. They are the forerunners of Generation Alpha, those to be born in the decade of 2010. And they are fast tracking trailblazers unrestrained by convention. Wristwatch? What’s that? A smartphone tells you what time it is.
And what they portend for the generations to follow are familiarity, openness and enthusiasm for innovation and for emerging and pervasive technology. According to the annual Mindset List from Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, Generation Z doesn’t wear wristwatches, lives on instant access, and finds no place for cursive writing or snail mail.
“Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess” and Clint Eastwood isn’t remembered as Dirty Harry. Nirvana is classic oldies music and who’s J.R. Ewing? Every August for the past dozen years, the Beloit College Mindset List has cataloged the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation so that faculty members avoid dated references.
The generational gap between Generation Z and everyone else is as wide as the Grand Canyon. If the generation before them, the Millenials, is radically different from the Boomers, Generation Z is quantumly so.
Generation Z is impatient, mobile and digitally wired in toto. Email is too slow. They’d rather text than talk.
And beyond futilely reconciling recent history with the present, they’re already transforming social mores, including even hot-button immigration. They will push their trends into new values and virtues, even further than Generation Y, which not long ago polled to corroborate there’s even a generation gap on immigration. According to the Mindset List for the Class of 2014, “A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.”